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Category Archives: Toronto cultural scene

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant—closed in 1999

                   King St W, looking west to Duncan - "Ed's Warehouse" – October 9, 1981

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant on King Street West on October 9, 1981. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, file 0067, Item 0014.

In decades past, one of the most famous restaurants in Toronto was Ed’s Warehouse. Located at 266 King Street West, it was not only a place to enjoy a meal, but also a tourist attraction. For almost four decades, people visited it and invariably, it lived up to its reputation.

In the early 1960s, King Street West between Peter Street and University Avenue was sadly neglected. Adding to the difficulties was the CP Rail Yards, located on the south side of the street, where the Roy Thomson Hall is located today. Transients riding the rails were often seen on this section of King Street. Despite these considerations, Ed Mirvish purchased the Royal Alexandra Theatre in 1962 for $200,000. He was quoted as saying that the value of the land alone was worth more than the purchase price, which included the theatre.

After restoring the Royal Alexandra, Ed Mirvish faced the problem that there were no quality restaurants in the area. In 1963, he solved the difficulty by opening his own — Ed’s Warehouse. Its name was chosen as it was actually located in a former warehouse, immediately to the west side of the theatre. Ed believed that dining and theatre went together like the proverbial “horse and carriage,” so the enterprise seemed appropriate.

Crowds attending the restaurant and the theatre brought life to the street. This was not true of other projects that opened in the area in the years ahead, such as the Roy Thomson Hall (1982), and the Canadian Broadcasting Centre (1992). These buildings basically ignored the street life. Ed eventually opened more restaurants on King Street and also built the Princess of Wales Theatre. Finally, the Bell Lightbox was opened (2010), the jewel in the crown that made King Street the most important entertainment district in the city, and perhaps in all of Canada. However, it all started with The Royal Alexandra Theatre and Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant.

In its day, dining at Ed’s restaurant was an experience unequalled in Toronto. Rita Zakes of the Toronto Star wrote in July 2007 that its ambiance was like that of a Barnum and Bailey circus. Personally, I considered it “antiques, junk and Victoriana gone wild!” Along with the red-flocked wallpaper, there were huge Oriental vases, Tiffany lamps, bronze and marble statuary, an automobile, antique photographs, photos of numerous theatre stars, stained glass windows, and lamps with naked ladies on their bases. From the moment the restaurant opened, the decor became part of the attraction. Best of all, after dining in this delightfully garish atmosphere, the Royal Alexandra Theatre was only a few steps away. 

The menu was pre-set, to reduce costs. Thick, juicy, prime rib was accompanied by mashed potatoes, green peas, Yorkshire pudding, and gravy. Garlic bread and dill pickles were also included. The dessert was spumoni ice cream. Critics jokingly stated that the menu was so easy to prepare that Ed had fired his chef and gave the job to the parking attendant. The critics had obviously never attempted to cook prime rib.

The restaurant was so successful that Ed Mirvish expanded and opened Ed’s Seafood, Ed’s Chinese, Ed’s Italian and Ed’s Folly (a lounge). In Ed’s Warehouse, men were required to wear a jacket and tie, this requirement maintained long after other dining establishments eliminated the tradition. However, Old Ed’s restaurant offered lower prices and was more casual.

In 1971, I subscribed to the Mirvish theatre series. When my first tickets arrived in the mail, I received two complimentary coupons for Ed’s Warehouse. If I remember correctly, each coupon had a value of $20, which covered the entire cost of the meal. These were indeed the “good old days.”

In the 1970s, when the Mirvish restaurants were at their height of popularity, they had a combined capacity of 2300 seats and often served 6000 meals a day. In this same decade, Toronto Calendar Magazine, which later merged with Toronto Life, sponsored a contest to determine the best restaurant in the financial district. Over 10,000 people voted, and out of the 21 restaurants listed, Ed’s Warehouse was #1. Despite this accolade, I read online some very critical reviews of the food at Ed’s Warehouse. However, I considered the beef, which was imported from Chicago, among the finest I have ever experienced.  

One year on my birthday, my family told me that they were taking me out to dinner, but they kept their choice of restaurant a surprise. I inquired if I should wear a tie and jacket and was told that they were unnecessary. When we arrived, we discovered that a tie and jacket were indeed mandatory, as it was Ed’s Warehouse. The waiter offered to provide jackets and ties from among those that they kept for such situations. He explained that the dress code was necessary to prevent vagrants from across the street at the railroad yards from entering the establishment. We were offended, as the clothes they offered were grubby looking, and we were certainly not hobos. We were wearing freshly-ironed sport shirts and neat trousers.

Then, Ed Mirvish appeared and inquired, “What’s the problem?”

We explained.

He smiled, apologized, and told the waiter, “Escort them to the table that has been reserved.”

We enjoyed the meal and when the cheque arrived, it had been reduced by 50 per cent. Ed was a very smart businessman as well as a big-hearted individual. My family never forgot his generosity.

Similar to all good times, the Mirvish restaurants finally disappeared. Ed cancelled his dining license in December 1999. When reporters asked him about the closings, he quipped that he was tired of doing dishes. The city was never the same. This will also be said when his discount store, “Honest Ed’s,” closes in December 2016.

To paraphrase Ed Mirvish, “Ed’s Warehouse was one of a kind. Often imitated, but never duplicated.”  

Sources: kingbluecondos.com, www.robertfulford.com, and www.liquisearch.com 

Corner of Duncan St. and King St., looking north-east

Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant in 1972, Toronto Archives, S 0841, fl. 0052, It. 0024. 

1978, Tor. P.L.  rj250-1[1]

Gazing east on King Street in 1978, Ed’s many restaurants visible on the north side of the street. Toronto Public Library, rj-250.

                                  King St W - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant - signage – October 9, 1981

Sign outside Ed’s Warehouse on August 9, 1981, displaying the menu and notifying men of the dress code. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, Fl. 0067, Item 0018.

 

                               King St W, east across Duncan - "Ed's Warehouse" – October 9, 1981

Looking east on King Street on October 9, 1981, Ed’s various restaurants visible. Ed’s Warehouse is in the distance, on the west side of the Royal Alexandra Theatre. Duncan Street separates Ed’s Warehouse from the other restaurants. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1525, Fl. 0067, It. 0015. 

King St W at Duncan - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant – August 6, 1983  King St W - "Ed's Warehouse" restaurant - outside, detail – August 6, 1983

Photos and newspaper clippings outside Ed’s Warehouse on King Street on August 6, 1983. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0067, Item 0022 (left photo) and Item 0021 (right photo).

ebay   [1]  Chuckman's  postcard-toronto-eds-warehouse-restaurant-270-king-w-dining-room-late-1960s[1]

(Left) Menu from Ed’s Warehouse that is for sale on ebay, and (right) the interior of Ed’s Warehouse from Chuckman’s Postcard Collection.

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I am grateful to a reader who emailed me a copy of the menu at Ed’s Warehouse. Perusing it brought back many fond memories of evenings spent looking over this menu to decide which “cut” to order.  The prices on the menu give true meaning to the phrase, “The good old days.” 

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Items that were previously in Ed’s Warehouse Restaurant. In this photo, they were on display in Honest Ed’s Discount store at Bathurst and Bloor Streets, in July 2013.

  King and Duncan

The building on King Street where Ed’s Warehouse was located. Photo taken in 2014. 

For a link to memories of other Toronto Restaurants of the past:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/memories-of-torontos-restaurants-of-the-past/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the Toronto Life article: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published by Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

 

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Queen Street’s Hugging Tree repainted (2016)

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The west side of the Hugging Tree in October 2016, the Black Bull Pub in the background.

It is not often that we find graffiti art painted on trees, or in the case of the “Hug Me Tree,” (Hugging Tree), on a tree stump. This favourite piece of art is located on the north side of Queen Street West, a short distance west of Peter Street. It appeared for the first time in 1999, painted by Elicer Elliott, a graduate of Sheridan College. He has since become one of Toronto’s best known graffiti artists. I highly recommend that you Google his name to see further examples of his work.

After completing the “Hug Me Tree,”“ Elicer Elliott placed a tag on the tree – “H.U.G.”- the name of his graffiti crew. As an afterthought, he added the “Me” to the tag, and Queen Street’s famous “Hug Me Tree” was born.

                 The hugging Tree in 2012.

In 2008, the tree toppled over onto the pavement. It may have been hit by a car, or pushed over by overly exuberant patrons of the nearby Black Bull Pub. Whatever occurred, the city decided to dispose of it. However, a group of concerned citizens prevented the tree from being carted away. On June 15, 2009, after the tree was restored, it was returned to its original location. It is now weather-proofed and has a metal base to secure it.

The next time you stroll along Queen Street West, on the section of the street east of Spadina, take a few moments to appreciate this example of graffiti art. Give it a hug. Who knows, it may bring you good luck.

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             The west side of the Hugging Tree in October 2016.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[1]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

 

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A Christmas concert in an historic Toronto cathedral

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A Christmas concert is a major part of the festive season for many people, and when it is presented one of Toronto’s historic cathedrals, the enjoyment is greatly increased. When I was a boy in the 1940s, I attended a small church that had no resemblance to a cathedral, and the Christmas concert was certainly not of the calibre that I witnessed this year (2015) at the Metropolitan United Church at Queen Street East and Church Street.

In the 1940s, in the small church of my childhood, the roles that we were to perform in the Sunday School Christmas concert were arbitrarily handed to us in mid-November, and the rehearsals commenced the first week of December. The concert was always held on a Saturday night, and it resembled a variety show. There were solos, duets, trios, pantomimes, short plays, elocutionists, and a choir composed of 35 or 40 children. There were always a few singers who were slightly off-key, someone who forgot their lines, and another who invariably tripped over the the heavy draperies that had been suspended in front of the pulpit to act as a stage curtain. However, the evening was always considered a great success by the parents and adult friends that filled the church to capacity. One or two gushing parents told us that we were almost ready for the stage at Massey Hall.

Following the concert, everyone gathered in the church basement around the enormous tree to receive our presents from Santa, who possessed a striking resemblance to the choir master. We did not think it strange, as Santa, carols and music were such integral parts of the festive season so why shouldn’t they all look alike? Along with our gifts, we were given an orange and a large shiny B. C. apple. These were considered  great treats in the 1940s, as fresh fruit was difficult to obtain. There was no imported produce during the winter months and much of the available food supply was being shipped overseas to feed the troops fighting in Europe or the Pacific.

The Christmas concert at the Metropolitan Church rekindled many fond memories from my childhood. The pageant presented during the morning service on December 13th was much different to the simple Sunday school concert of my youth. The costumes and lighting were quite professional, the narrators the quality that one might expect of the CBC, and the soloists and choir were excellent. However, some parts of the pageant were the same as the days of yesteryear—the wonderful carols, the nervous smiles of the children, and the inattentive little boy in the shepherd’s costume who removed his woollen lamb’s-head to obtain a better view of the scene.

I departed the church with the wonder and warmth of Christmas within me. As I walked home along Queen Street, I paused to observe the adults and wide-eyed children enjoying the animated Christmas windows in the Bay Store. Then, continuing westward, I paused again to watch the skaters on the rink in Nathan Phillips Square, their excited laughter and shouts filling the mild December air. The magic of the season was everywhere throughout the city.

However, perhaps the greatest expression of the message Christmas this year is the arrival of the Syrian refugees and the manner in which they have been welcomed by Torontonians and other Canadians across the country. The true message of Christmas lives on after almost two thousand years, expressed in many different ways.             

Merry Christmas 2015 

P.S. The Carol Service at Metropolitan United Church at 7 p.m. on Sunday December 20, 2015 will be a real treat.

Scenes of the Christmas pageant at Metropolitan United

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A link to the history of the Santa Claus Parade (1905-2015)

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/03/torontos-santa-claus-parade-through-the-decades/

A link to five favourite sites in downtown Toronto to view Xmas lights

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/downtown-torontos-five-best-xmas-displays2015/

List of my 25 favourite memories of Christmas’ past.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2015/12/11/list-of-25-favourite-things-from-christmas-past/

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern.

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

A link to view posts that explore Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2014/01/02/canadas-cultural-scenetorontos-architectural-heritage/

The publication entitled, “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” was written by the author of this blog. It explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these the movie houses of the past. The book is a trip down memory lane for those who remember these grand old theatres and a voyage of discovery for those who never experienced them.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 more of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016. It is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains over 130 archival photographs.

A second publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 70 of the city’s heritage sites with images of how the city once looked and how it appears today. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016.

 

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Toronto’s golden age of postcards

Old City hall  1910, TRL. pcr-2198[1]

Postcard depicting the Old City Hall, Toronto in 1910. Photo Toronto Public Library, pck-2198

Postcards have lost their importance in today’s world. They are rarely sent or received, although they are still displayed on racks outside stores in the downtown areas where tourists are likely to stroll. Similarly, the role of Christmas cards in the yuletide season has diminished. Birthday cards, Valentines and Easter cards have also become less popular as people switch to electronic cards or Facebook for messaging. People today prefer the instant communication of social media. Other factors that have hastened the demise of greeting cards and postcards are their cost and Canada’s expensive postal rates.

It is a pity that hand-written messages on cards have become obsolete. Emails or posts on Facebook and blogs have their appeal, but there is something to be said for seeing the handwriting of the sender. Postcards from overseas have the added attraction of containing colourful stamps, and the pictures on the postcards provide images of where the sender is visiting or living. They are genuine artefacts from other parts of Canada and around the world.

Old Toronto postcards chronicle a pictorial history of the city and have become collector’s items. In past decades, only coins and stamps were more popular as collectors’ items than postcards. Collecting them is referred to as “deltiology,” from the Greek word “deltos” for a writing tablet. For many decades, picture postcards were the most popular souvenirs of travellers and tourists. 

In the early years of the 20th century, few people owned telephones. The postal system was the quickest and cheapest form of communication. Mail delivery was six days a week, twice each day: one delivery in the morning and another in the afternoon. If a person mailed a postcard before 11 am, same-day delivery was guaranteed. A person was able to send a card in the morning to arrange a meeting in the late-afternoon or evening of the same day. Postcards required mere minutes to write and the postage was a mere penny. They were handy when a letter was not required. In past decades, the post office placed ads in Toronto newspapers to remind people that on Christmas Day, there would be a morning delivery only. Today, it is difficult to believe that such service was once the norm.

Postcards allowed people to keep in touch, especially with those who lived in the suburban areas of the city. For example, it was difficult for people living above the Davenport Road hill in the Earlscourt District, which centred on St. Clair and Dufferin Streets, to journey to the city below the hill. It was 1913 before streetcar service was available on St. Clair Avenue, connecting residents to the downtown. Prior to the streetcar line being built, to travel downtown, people walked down Dufferin Street, descending the hill to Davenport Road. Then, they continued south to Dufferin and Dupont Street (then named Van Horne), where they climbed aboard a streetcar that went downtown. The return journey was even more arduous, especially in winter, as it meant climbing the steep hill.

Before postcards were introduced there were “picture envelopes,” which were pre-printed and possessed attractive scenes. People inserted their letters in these envelopes. In 1871, the Canadian post office issued blank cards with stamps printed on them. The address to which the card was being sent was placed on the stamped side of the card, and on the other side was written a message. Businesses employed these cards to arrange appointments, confirm orders, and arrange deliveries. In 1897, lithographed or engraved pictures were allowed on one side of the cards, but there were no photos. In 1898, the post office legalized sending private cards in the mail. People were now able to take negatives of their favourite personal photos to drug stores and have copies printed from them in the format of postcards. These cards allowed families to keep in touch with friends and family members, as well as announce family events such as births and weddings.

In 1903, the format of the postcards changed again, appearing similar in design to those of today. A picture was on one side of the card and on the other, a vertical line separated the space for the address from the space allotted for the message. These were the cards that remained highly popular until the age of the internet.

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This postcard, mailed in 1906, is intriguing, as it was sent to arrange a meeting, but the signature of the sender was disguised. The address in Kew Beach is quite simple compared with today’s addresses in this area of Toronto.

Bay St. Wharf  1910, TRL. pcr-2137[1]

A 1910 postcard of the Bay Street Wharf, with the spire of St. James Cathedral in the background. Toronto Public Library, pcr-2137.

               City Hall and Temple Blg. 1910, TRL. pcr-2200[1] 

Postcard of looking north on Bay Street from Richmond Street in 1910. Toronto Public Library pcr-2201.

Niagara boat at Toronto 1910 TRL.  pcr-2142[1]

A 1910 postcard depicting the arrival of the boat from Niagara at the Yonge Street wharf. Toronto Public Library, pcr-2142.

                311 Jarvis Street, photo by H.j. Fleming, 44 Ann St. Tor.  

This postcard was printed from a negative in the woman’s personal photograph collection. It was mailed in 1910 to the woman’s family in Ireland. She had immigrated to Canada and secured employment as a domestic in a house at 311 Jarvis Street. The card was printed for her by H.J. Fleming of 44 Ann Street, Toronto.

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In 1914, she mailed this card to her family in Ireland. It contained a photo of her daughter, Ruth.

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This postcard contains a photo of the woman’s house at 212 Perth Street. In 1918, she mailed copies of this card to relatives and friends, but kept a copy for herself. Ruth and her sister are sitting at the top of the veranda steps.

Series 1172, Valentine 6 Dessigns    DSCN9508

A valentine (left) and a birthday card (right), postcards that were mailed in 1927.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

A link to view previous posts about the movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern, and Toronto’s Heritage Buildings:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Shop, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

Another book, published by Dundurn Press, containing 80 of Toronto’s old movie theatres will be released in the spring of 2016, entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” 

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press, explores 75 of the city’s heritage buildings. This book will also be released in the spring of 2016. 

 

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History of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM)

Fonds 1244, Item 3058

Gazing north on Queen’s Park Crescent in 1930. To the north of the museum is the Park Plaza Hotel. Toronto Archives,  Fonds 1244, Item 3058.

My earliest memories of the Royal Ontario Museum date from the 1940s, when my father took my brother and me downtown to view a parade on University Avenue. When it started to rain, he decided that we should go into the museum. I was a young boy at the time, and the dinosaurs, the Egyptian mummy, and the mounted animals in the natural history section fascinated me. The other item that I vividly remember from this visit is the tall totem pole in one of the stairwells. From the basement level, it towered skyward to near the roof. Today, these same exhibits thrill children and adults alike.

The Royal Ontario Museum has a history that spans over a century. It began in the early 20th century, at a time when Toronto was growing rapidly and the need for a world-class museum was clearly evident. A small group of influential people sought funding from the Ontario Government and the University of Toronto. As a result of their efforts, the Ontario Legislature passed The ROM Act on April 16, 1912, and the long history of this venerable institution commenced.

The facade of the new museum was to face Philosophers’ Walk, near the intersection of Bloor and Queen’s Park Avenue. The architects for the building were Darling and Pearson. The walls of the structure were covered with pale chalk-coloured bricks and terracotta. The entrance was on the north side, facing Bloor Street. It was officially opened on March 19, 1914, by the Duke of Connaught, Canada’s governor general.

An addition was added to the museum 19 years later, opening on October 12, 1933. The original section of the museum became the west wing. The addition faced Queen’s Park Crescent, the building occupying the southwest corner of Bloor West and Queen’s Park Crescent. Its walls were faced with pale-yellow bricks and Ontario limestone. The architects were Chapman and Oxley, who chose the Beau-Arts style, with richly detailed classical symbols. The main entrance was on Queen’s Park Crescent, the combined structures creating a U-shaped building.

In 1967, the museum severed its connection with the University of Toronto and became a separate entity. The ROM, as most people refer to it today, was renovated in 1984, at a cost of $55 million. It was officially reopened by Queen Elizabeth II. The next major change to the museum occurred in 2007, when another wing was added, named the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, at a cost of $320 million. Its architect the world famous Daniel Libeskind, who relocated the main entrance to Bloor Street. The museum has in its possession 6 million artefacts and attracts visitors from all over the world, as well as those living in Toronto and the surrounding area. 

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The original Royal Ontario Museum, facing Philosophers’ Walk, in 1913. Toronto Archives, F.1244, It.3046 (1)

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The museum facing Philosophers’ Walk on October 15, 1929. Today, it is the west wing of the ROM. Toronto Archives S0071, It. 7253 (1)

Fonds 1244, Item 1140

The 1933 addition to the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent, photo taken the year it opened. The street in front of the museum is considerably narrower than it is today. Toronto Archives, F1244, It. 1140 (1) 

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Main entrance to the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent. The photo was taken in 1935. Toronto Archives, F1244, It. 0683 (1)

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The same entrance to the museum in 2012, after the entrance was relocated to Bloor Street West.

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The east facade of the ROM, facing Queen’s Park Crescent on May 28, 2015.

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View gazes west  on Bloor Street, the 1933 addition to the ROM visible, as well as the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

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             The Michael Lee-Chin Crystal facing Bloor Street. May 28, 2015.

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Entrance to the ROM on Bloor Street, in the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, May 28, 2015.

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      The court on the ground-floor level, inside the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, May 2015.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue

 

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Toronto’s historic Royal Alexandra Theatre

Tor. Pub. Lib. pictures-r-4963[1]

The Royal Alexander Theatre in August, 1955 , Toronto Public Library, r-4963-1

In the 19th century, King Street was one of the most fashionable residential streets in Toronto, as well as its most important business thoroughfare. Government House, the official residence of the Lieutenant Governor of Ontario was located at Simcoe and John Streets, the location of today’s Roy Thomson Hall. The prestigious private school, Upper Canada College, was at one time located at the same intersection, on the northwest corner.

In the first decade of the 20th century, a group of business men, its most important member Cawthra Mulock, decided to finance the construction of a theatre to showcase legitimate theatrical productions. Most of them would be touring shows from London and New York. They purchased an 100-foot-wide lot at 260 King Street West, on the north side of the street, between Simcoe and John Streets. It had at one time been part of the previously mentioned campus of Upper Canada College.  

The syndicate hired the architect John M. Lyle, who in later years was to design Union Station on Front Street. For the theatre, Lyle chose the style that he preferred and had specialized in—Beaux-Arts classicism. It was constructed on a steel frame, which was not common in that decade. The exterior walls and floors were reinforced concrete, over two feet thick, and the walls were covered with yellow bricks. It had a Mansard roof with eye-windows inserted in it on three sides. The balconies were constructed of reinforced concrete on steel frames. There were no internal pillars, so no seat in the theatre would have an obstructed view. Sandstone blocks were placed on the facade facing King Street to create an imposing dignified appearance. The theatre was electrified so that no candles or gas lamps were required for stage or house lights, reducing the risk of fire. The stage’s fire curtain contained asbestos, woven on steel wire. There was also an automatic sprinkler system, its water supply contained in a cistern on the roof. There were sprinklers in the ceiling of the auditorium, as well as encircling the stage area and around the curtains. When it was built, it was the only truly fire-proof theatre in North America, setting the standard for theatres throughout the continent.

The stage was 45 feet wide and 35 feet in depth. The 17-foot wings were of sufficient size for the demands of most productions. Behind the stage were dressing rooms and washrooms. The space above the stage possessed extra height to accommodate most scenery and stage sets. Though the theatre was smaller than those in London and New York, the Royal Alex was a “road house,” meaning that touring groups arrived with their own scenery, which tended to be on a smaller scale than in-house productions. In the two balconies and box seats on the sides, as well as in the orchestra sections, there were plush comfortable seats. Every detail was observed to create excellent acoustics, and the auditorium was shaped according to these principles. In summer, storage spaces under the floor contained blocks of ice, so that in hot weather, vents in the floor allowed cool air into the theatre. This was in the days prior to air conditioning.

Royal permission was granted to name the theatre after the consort of King Edward VII, Queen Alexandra. It opened on August 26, 1907 with the musical production “Top O’ Th’ World,” starring  Harry Fairleigh and Anna Laughklin. During the many decades ahead, productions of Oklahoma, Kiss Me Kate, The King and I, Call Me Madam, and the Wizard of Oz had their Toronto premiers at the “Royal Alex,” as theatregoers usually refer to it. As well, Gilbert and Sullivan Operas and productions from New York’s Metropolitan Opera have been featured at the theatre.

By the late-1950s, the area surrounding the theatre had deteriorated and it was in danger of being demolished for a parking lot. In 1963, Ed Mirvish purchased the theatre for $215,000. He was quoted as saying that any real estate deal where the asking price was less than the value of the land alone, was a great buy. Mirvish restored the theatre to its early-twentieth- century grandeur and reopened it on September 9, 1963, featuring the play, “Never Too Late.” It was the beginning of the renaissance of King Street West. Today, the Bell Lightbox and Princess of Wales Theatre complement the historic Royal Alexander. It is one of the oldest continuously operating theatres in North America.

Note: I am grateful for the information contained in the book, “The Royal Alexandra Theatre” by Robert Brockhouse.

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                                                The theatre in 2012.

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                     The canopy of the theatre on King Street West.

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                                        Entrance doors on King Street.

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                             Architectural detailing of the cornice.

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                                      Interior view from the stage.

May 2012

              View of the theatre from David Pecaut Square in May 2012.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

Recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” by the author of this blog. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories of the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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Toronto’s daily newspapers of the 1950s—Princess Elizabeth, pre-Coronation—Part 1

In 1951, I began collecting Toronto newspapers that I considered milestones in history. Included in the collection were Life Magazines and copies of the Star Weekly, a magazine inserted in the Toronto Daily Star (Toronto Star) each Saturday between the years 1910 and 1973. l recently, I sorted through these old newspapers, reliving the memories they contained, some of them pleasant and others sad. In some instances, I remember where I was the day the headlines appeared.

Copies of the newspapers are available on microfilm in the archives and online, but seeing the originals caused me to recall when I first glimpsed them on the doorstep of our home or in a newspaper box. Sometimes my first sight of them was on the kitchen table, after one of my parents retrieved it from the veranda. The kitchen table was the centre of everything in our house and the place where the news of the day was discussed. Viewing the old newspapers again after all these years, I recalled the shock, fascination and amusement my parents expressed as they saw the daily headlines.

I recently read an online article asserting that no one under the age of 50 reads hard copy newspapers any more. Unfortunately, this might be close to the truth, but I believe it is their loss. My viewpoint is prejudiced, as I am over 50 and receive two newspapers daily. I often employ my iPad to learn about the latest news, especially when I am travelling, but I do not feel as connected to the events as when I read a newspaper. For me, a newspaper has more visual impact, and besides, news posted on social media is basically derived from newspaper reports. Perusing the newspapers in my collection, the emotions that I felt when I originally read them were revived.

The photos and newspapers shown in this post represent a vastly different world from today. When the 1950s dawned, World War II had ended just five years earlier and the scars of war had not completely healed. Entertainment was more than an indulgence or mere pastime, as people sought ways to erase the memories of casualty lists and horrific reports front the front lines in Europe or the Pacific. One of the most popular ways of achieving this was to attend the movie theatres of the city. In the 1950s, they were scattered throughout every community in Toronto, their newsreels one of the few sources of visual images of events of the day. Newspapers were the other source. They linked people to the world beyond their neighbourhood. Because radios offered no visual images, people depended on newspapers and magazines. Hence the importance of the Star Weekly magazine that appeared in The Daily Star each Saturday. 

Movies allowed people to dream, and for many, the dreams included an escape from the inner city to suburban communities surrounding Toronto, where there were ranch-style homes on spacious building lots. Picket fences and two-car garages were not mandatory, but were highly desirable. Sales of automobiles soared and purchases of consumer goods to furnish the new homes increased exponentially.

Patriotism and national pride engendered by the war years remained, including loyalty to the king and queen who had led them through the years of conflict. Toronto was fascinated by their young daughter, Princess Elizabeth, heir to the British throne, and her handsome husband. The fascination peaked in 1951 with the announcement of the couple’s royal tour of Canada, which included a visit to Washington. Television sets remained rare in 1951, meaning that the newspapers and newsreels in theatres were the main sources of images and information about the tour.

                         1 a . Sept. 21, 1951,  Karsh portrait

This photograph by the famous portrait photographer Yousuf Karsh of Princess Elizabeth was inserted in the Star Weekly magazine on September 21, 1951, printed as a two-page spread. Recently, (March 2015) I saw a copy of the upper portion of this portrait in the window of a cheese shop in the Kensington Market. It was badly faded, but it brought back memories of when I first saw it. I don’t know why it was in the shop window, after all these years.

                       1.  Oct. 1, 1951

Life magazine of October 1, 1951. Americans were also interested in the royal tour as it included a visit to Washington.

1a. Nov. 1, 1951

November 1, 1951, The Telegram newspaper, reporting the princess’ visit to Washington.

                        1b .  Nov. 3, 1951

Cover of the Star weekly of November 3, 1951, a special edition issued in honour of the royal tour of Princess Elizabeth. 

1b.  Nov. 12, 1951

Although Churchill captured the headline on November 12, 1951, Princess Elizabeth still dominated the news.

1c.  Nov. 12, 1951

        The Toronto Telegram of November 12, 1951, at the conclusion of the royal tour.

1d. Nov. 17, 1951

On another note, the Star Weekly reported about a rooky hockey player on November 17, 1951. The young star was Bernard Geoffion.

                      2.a . Feb. 6,  1952

This photo from the Toronto Star of February 6, 1952 marked the end of an era. The king who had inspired the British nations during the World War II had passed away. I was sitting in a classroom at Vaughan Road Collegiate when the principal announced over the PA system that the king had died. There were tears on the cheeks of some of the teachers, especially those who had served in the Second World War. My home room teacher was among them. It was a moment I never forgot.

2b .  Feb. 6, 1952

       Toronto Daily Star, February 6, 1952, the day King George VI died.

2cc.  Feb. 16, 1952

In the days after the passing of King George VI, speculation commenced about the coronation of the young queen. The headline prediction did not materialize, as the coronation was eventually set for June 2, 1953.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

To view previous blogs about movie houses of Toronto—historic and modern

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2013/10/09/links-to-toronto-old-movie-housestayloronhistory-com/

The 1950s newspapers shown in this post were published in a decade when the movie theatres of Toronto were the major entertainment venues of the city. My recent publication entitled “Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” is akin to a book of memories of this former decade. The publication explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates personal anecdotes and stories of others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                      cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

            To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox Book Store and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791

Theatres Included in the Book:

Chapter One – The Early Years—Nickelodeons and the First Theatres in Toronto

Theatorium (Red Mill) Theatre—Toronto’s First Movie Experience and First Permanent Movie Theatre, Auditorium (Avenue, PIckford), Colonial Theatre (the Bay), the Photodrome, Revue Theatre, Picture Palace (Royal George), Big Nickel (National, Rio), Madison Theatre (Midtown, Capri, Eden, Bloor Cinema, Bloor Street Hot Docs), Theatre Without a Name (Pastime, Prince Edward, Fox)

Chapter Two – The Great Movie Palaces – The End of the Nickelodeons

Loew’s Yonge Street (Elgin/Winter Garden), Shea’s Hippodrome, The Allen (Tivoli), Pantages (Imperial, Imperial Six, Ed Mirvish), Loew’s Uptown

Chapter Three – Smaller Theatres in the pre-1920s and 1920s

 Oakwood, Broadway, Carlton on Parliament Street, Victory on Yonge Street (Embassy, Astor, Showcase, Federal, New Yorker, Panasonic), Allan’s Danforth (Century, Titania, Music Hall), Parkdale, Alhambra (Baronet, Eve), St. Clair, Standard (Strand, Victory, Golden Harvest), Palace, Bedford (Park), Hudson (Mount Pleasant), Belsize (Crest, Regent), Runnymede

Chapter Four – Theatres During the 1930s, the Great Depression

Grant ,Hollywood, Oriole (Cinema, International Cinema), Eglinton, Casino, Radio City, Paramount, Scarboro, Paradise (Eve’s Paradise), State (Bloordale), Colony, Bellevue (Lux, Elektra, Lido), Kingsway, Pylon (Royal, Golden Princess), Metro

Chapter Five – Theatres in the 1940s – The Second World War and the Post-War Years

University, Odeon Fairlawn, Vaughan, Odeon Danforth, Glendale, Odeon Hyland, Nortown, Willow, Downtown, Odeon Carlton, Donlands, Biltmore, Odeon Humber, Town Cinema

Chapter Six – The 1950s Theatres

Savoy (Coronet), Westwood

Chapter Seven – Cineplex and Multi-screen Complexes

Cineplex Eaton Centre, Cineplex Odeon Varsity, Scotiabank Cineplex, Dundas Square Cineplex, The Bell Lightbox (TIFF)

 

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